Despite the Save San Onofre Coalition (SSOC) winning a 15-year battle to protect San Onofre State Beach from a toll road development, and settling a lawsuit to codify permanent protection of the park, the City Council of San Clemente and the Reserve Management Corporation filed lawsuits to undo our historic settlement.
Clearly, these lawsuits are disheartening. However, what is even more concerning is that for the past year a false narrative has been circulating around San Clemente about SSOC’s lawsuit settlement with the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). In July of 2017, rather than sitting down with SSOC to learn more about the Protective Agreement secured to save San Onofre State Beach, the San Clemente City Council chose to perpetuate flat-out misinformation. As recently reported, the public learned the City Council hired a PR firm. Upon reading a memo from the PR firm, we learned the City Council spent taxpayer funds to drive a mistruth that SSOC took a $30 million payout during the settlement negotiations.
SSOC has NOT received a bribe of $30 million, or any other amount of money. Not even $1.00. As clearly stated in the Settlement Agreement, $28 million was set aside by TCA in a conservation fund to be spent on mitigation if the TCA builds any project that impacts the area’s environment. This money is held by the TCA and can only be used on conservation efforts such as habitat restoration, land acquisition, and other activities that preserve and restore San Mateo Creek and its watershed. None of the funds in the conservation fund has ever been, nor ever will be, paid to SSOC or its members organizations.
Not only is the narrative that SSOC took a huge payout patently false, but unfortunately it is coming directly from elected officials and staff at the City of San Clemente. Starting in March of 2017, San Clemente City Councilmembers introduced the idea that SSOC took huge sums of money from the TCA. Following these misstatements, we attended a later City Council meeting and asked them to correct their misstatements. To this day, no such correction, even in light of black-and-white text proving otherwise, has been made. Instead, city officials continue to perpetuate this knowingly false narrative. This video shows the misinformation being espoused from the dais and SSOC testifying to set the record straight (this was from nearly a year ago!).
While it is a shame that SSOC was subject of a false narrative, drummed up by a taxpayer-funded PR campaign, the most disturbing element is that San Clemente residents were fed misinformation by their own elected officials. Hiring a PR firm was not the misdeed. The misdeed was engaging in a misinformation campaign that pitted neighbor against neighbor. Rather than sit down with SSOC and engage in constructive dialogue, city officials chose to misrepresent the protective agreement SSOC won in a 15-year-long battle to protect San Onofre State Beach.
San Clemente residents, how are our city’s elected officials using our tax dollars? Why did the City Council and staff knowingly spread false information? To find out more about the importance of protecting the Park read the resources we have here.
The SSOC is comprised of 12 national and local organizations representing millions of Californians with Staff members and constituents living in South Orange county and San Clemente.